The Future Depends on the Promise of the 60s

Asher Black
3 min readSep 23, 2023

We’ve reached a point where even those who have lived through the 60s and 70s either don’t recall or weren’t paying attention to the promise of the era, it’s vision and hope.

The promise echoed in every domain of the culture in the West, but it may most efficiently be recognized in the music. In the eight-year period between, on the one hand, the Civil Rights Act and the Warren Commission, and on the other, the Pentagon Papers and the 26th Amendment, artists sang to each other and all of us about the promise, referencing it again and again in songs like:

  • 1964: A Change Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
  • 1964: The Times They Are a Changing (Bob Dylan)
  • 1965: People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield)
  • 1968: Everyday People (Sly & the Family Stone)
  • 1971: Find the Cost of Freedom (Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young)
  • 1971: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Gil Scott-Heron)
  • 1971: What’s Goin On (Marvin Gaye)

The culture was having a multivariate conversation through its artists on an unprecedented scale. This cannot be understood by reading Wikipedia and listening to a few songs on Spotify. You have to have been listening at the time.

Neatly situated between a self-indulgent period of lovely but essentially irrelevant love songs prior to ’64, and the birth of punk rock ten years later, which banged out social/political critiques but largely without a unifying vision of the desired outcome, we had not yet turned our disillusionment from conviction to rage or finally back into self-indulgence.

The conversation was about what constitutes our moral survival—survival in microcosm. We failed, of course, to achieve the promise of those outcomes. And we are widely blamed, with or without referencing that, for bequeathing to later generations a broken and dying world. However, many of us fought.

The young black civics teacher in the deep South who, after desegregation, wore a kufi and dashiki to school and taught us the meaning of civil responsibility, who lost her job for doing so, is someone who fought.

If you weren’t there, you can’t know. Not from a few articles or pages in a book. And if you were there and had your head up your ass, distracted, you don’t remember.

What we face now is the macrocosm of our final survival as a species. And we will need such a similar conversation and promise on a larger scale if we’re going to survive what’s coming. It cannot be reproduced by singing sea shanties on TikTok, nice as those are.

We will need to abandon the toys of our distraction—the latest phone, the newest show, whatever the other political party or their oompah loompah did in the last hour. We will need both a vision of the outcome we want to achieve and a resurgence of relevant art.

If nothing else, it wouldn’t hurt to listen to some whole albums from the time and get a sense of what’s being discussed in extenso.

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Asher Black

Asher Black is a storyteller, musician, & karateka satisfied w. the life he always wanted. Profile not yet rated. Parental discretion. Views do not reflect. Etc